Facilitating Access to Latin inscriptions in Britain's Oldest Public Museum through Scholarship and Technology
AHRC Research Grant, Oct 2013-Sep 2016
A collaborative project between the Dept of Classics and Ancient History, University of Warwick (led by Dr Alison Cooley as Principal Investigator), the Ashmolean Museum (Co-Investigator Dr Susan Walker) and the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents, University of Oxford (Co-Investigator, Dr Charles Crowther).
The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford owns around three hundred Latin inscriptions in its collection, which it has gradually accumulated over the centuries since 1683. The core of the collection consists of the Arundel marbles, but the museum has made further acquisitions since the seventeenth century, most recently of inscriptions from the estate of the late Sir Howard Colvin. The main publication of the collection is that of Chandler (1763), who included the 134 inscriptions then owned by the museum. Since then, however, the museum has added a significant number of new inscriptions to its collection. No modern edition of the collection exists. No photographic record of the inscriptions has ever been published. The inscriptions originate from Britain and other parts of the Roman world and date from the late Republic down to mediaeval times. The collection includes a wide range of types of inscriptions: many are monumental inscriptions such as epitaphs, religious dedications, and commemorative building-inscriptions, but many more are inscribed upon everyday objects, including pewterware, pottery, and even a set of panpipes. None of the inscriptions on its own is of any especial historical consequence, but together they offer insights into the Roman world, its commemorative habits, social hierarchy, economic networks, and uses of literacy. Specifically too, the place of the frontier province of Britain within the cultural, social, religious, and economic networks of the wider Roman empire can be illustrated by the inscriptions found there.
Despite the fact that they offer a direct line of communication with the ancient world, Latin inscriptions often seem inaccessible and incomprehensible to the general public. This project aims to create an online corpus and critical edition of the museum's collection of inscriptions for a scholarly readership, and then to use this as a springboard for further online resources and interactive activities, and to incorporate more Latin inscriptions into the museum's displays in order to open up this type of first-hand source material to as wide an audience as possible. It will show how Latin inscriptions can illuminate the society, economy, and religion of the past, and will explore the ways in which Latin continued to be used in Britain even after the end of 'Roman Britain'.
As well as containing a research core relating to Roman history, this project will also make a valuable contribution to understanding better how digital resources can be embedded into different contexts peopled by professional scholars, students, teachers, schoolchildren, and museum-visitors. The AHRC has been at the forefront of funding innovative digital epigraphic projects, such as Inscriptions of Aphrodisias and MAMA XI, and of supporting new imaging techniques via the project eSAD: e-Science and Ancient Documents. These projects have clearly demonstrated the advantages of publication in EpiDoc XML, but this project wishes to explore this potential further in a number of ways: by exploring the integration of an EpiDoc corpus into a Museum's cataloguing system; by discovering how it can be used to enhance current displays within the Museum; to see how the XML can be used to produce teaching resources which can be used by institutions elsewhere. In particular, it will seek to put into practice the potential in EpiDoc to produce resources suitable for the visually impaired.
Several audiences will be the potential beneficiaries of this project. Visitors to the museum will be able to engage more easily with the Latin inscriptions on display; interactive activities will target schoolchildren. Schools will be able to use new online resources in the Education Centre during their visits to the museum and to engage in follow-up activities afterwards. Students and scholars will be able to access the electronic EpiDoc corpus of the inscriptions. By publishing an electronic corpus, the museum's collection will be made accessible to a worldwide audience, and it will be possible to integrate its data into the existing major online databases of Latin inscriptions (Epigraphische Datenbank Heidelberg; Epigraphic Database Roma).
By publishing a corpus of the Latin inscriptions in the Ashmolean Museum, this project will explore the place of Latin literacy in Britain, the role of inscriptions in writing Roman social history, and the history of the collection and changing attitudes to epigraphy from 1683 to the modern day. Of equal importance is our objective to explore ways in which Latin inscriptions can be used to educate the general public, visitors, and children about the Roman world, using the Ashmolean as a case-study. Inscriptions in Latin can seem inaccessible and intimidating to visitors, but in reality represent a direct window onto the ancient world, combining material culture and text. The possibility of opening up epigraphy to wider audiences is illustrated by the 'Talking stones' programme at the Epigraphical Museum, Athens, which presents the stones in its collection to different groups of visitors. Our project will explore ways in which the Latin inscriptions owned by the Ashmolean can be published for an academic readership and presented to the general public.
At the core of the project is an online corpus and critical edition of the museum's Latin inscriptions. This will examine them as both texts and objects, looking for evidence of how stonecutters designed inscriptions, exploring their significance for understanding local epigraphic cultures, and unravelling individual episodes of Roman social history. The corpus will be created according to EpiDoc conventions designed to ensure the compatibility, durability, and interchangeability of data. Using EpiDoc will maximise access to the data, not just as an online corpus, but also integrated into the international epigraphic online databases. This proposal will go one step beyond the successful EpiDoc projects based at KCL by using this EpiDoc corpus as the springboard towards further web resources aimed at the general public and schoolchildren. In addition to inserting the Latin inscriptions into the museum's existing Online Collections, we shall create further educational resources targeted at schools. By creating a set of digital resources, the project will make accessible the whole collection of inscriptions - not just inscriptions currently on display in the galleries, but those in storerooms and on loan to other institutions - to different groups, whether scholars, students, children (particularly at KS2, GCSE and A levels), or visitors. EpiDoc also allows different audiences (including the visually impaired) to be addressed with different versions of the data. We aim to build on the success of other EpiDoc projects in order to explore further how digital resources can be used to integrate scholarship into the way visitors to the museum interact with its collections.
The project will add a selection of Latin inscriptions not currently on display into various galleries and spaces in the museum to enhance visitors' appreciation of the contribution of epigraphy to our understanding of the Roman world. The displayed inscriptions will be accompanied by interactive activities designed to engage visitors in themes such as Language and Literacy, Social Status, Living and Dying in the Roman World, and Economic Networks. The Museum already has programmes on ancient Egypt and Greece for children at KS1/2; this project will complement these by making available resources on the Roman world which encourage children to engage with primary source material. The resources produced by this project will be available to school groups in the Education Centre, which attracts thousands of primary schoolchildren each year.
Postdoctoral Research Assistant Advert - Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Facilitating Access to Latin Inscriptions)
- Ioannou Centre, 66 St Giles', Oxford
- Grade 7: £31,331 p.a.
- The ‘Facilitating Access to Latin Inscriptions in Britain's Oldest Public Museum through Scholarship and Technology’ project is seeking to appoint a Postdoctoral Research Fellow for a full-time, 3-year fixed-term post from 1 October 2013 until 30 September 2016. The project is funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Grant and is directed by Dr Alison Cooley (University of Warwick).
- The Research Fellow will be based in the Ashmolean Museum and in the Classics Faculty’s Ioannou Centre in central Oxford and will work under the supervision of Dr Cooley and Dr Susan Walker (Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities). The principal responsibility of the Research Fellow will be to fulfil the project’s impact agenda by integrating the Latin inscriptions in the Museum into the Ashmolean's Online Collections, creating additional web resources tailored to the needs of school students, designing and implementing interactive gallery activities, exploring the creation of resources for the visually impaired, and helping to run inset days illustrating the potential of the new resources for UK teachers.
- Applicants should have a PhD in Archaeology, Ancient History, Museum Studies, or a relevant field, a demonstrable knowledge of the Social History of the Roman World, experience in working in collaboration with schools, and have proven IT skills.
- Only applications received before 12.00 noon on 17 May 2013 can be considered.
Contact Person : Erica Clarke Vacancy ID : 107580
Contact Phone : 01865 288269 Closing Date : 17-May-2013
Contact Email : email@example.com
The principal responsibility of the Research Fellow will be to fulfil the project's impact agenda under the direction of Dr Alison Cooley (PI, University of Warwick) and Dr Susan Walker (Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Ashmolean Museum).
Specific responsibilities and duties will be to:
- Incorporate Latin inscriptions from the Museum into the Ashmolean's Online CollectionsCreate further web resources tailored to the needs of KS 1/2 and GCSE
- Design and implement interactive gallery activities
- Engage in evaluation of educational resources
- Design and implement ways of measuring the ‘impact’ of the project
- Help in finalising the choice of inscriptions for inclusion in new displays within existing gallery spaces
- To explore ways in which EpiDoc data can be used to generate resources for the visually impaired
- To help run and participate in JACT inset days illustrating the potential of the new resources for UK teachers
- PhD (or equivalent) in Archaeology, Ancient History, Museum Studies, or a relevant field.
- Knowledge of the Social History of the Roman World
- Ability to carry out research independently
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- Proficient IT skills, including web design and authoring
- Experience in working in collaboration with schools, whether primary and/or secondary
- Knowledge of Latin
- Experience of working in a museum
- Experience in developing public outreach projects
How to apply
- https://www.recruit.ox.ac.uk/pls/hrisliverecruit/erq_jobspec_version_4.display_form - www.recruit.ox.ac.uk post ref. 107580.
- If you consider that you meet the selection criteria, click on the Apply Now button on the ‘Job Details’ page and follow the on-screen instructions to register as a user. You will then be required to complete a number of screens with your application details, relating to your skills and experience. When prompted, please provide details of two referees and indicate whether we can contact them at this stage. You will also be required to upload a CV and supporting statement. The supporting statement should describe what you have been doing over at least the last 10 years. This may have been employment, education, or you may have taken time away from these activities in order to raise a family, care for a dependant, or travel for example. Your application will be judged solely on the basis of how you demonstrate that that you meet the selection criteria outlined above and we are happy to consider evidence of transferable skills or experience which you may have gained outside the context of paid employment or education.
- Please save all uploaded documents to show your name and the document type.
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- Should you experience any difficulties using the online application system, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Please contact Alison Cooley for further details: a.cooley<at>warwick.ac.uk
Stephanie Lane has been awarded this PhD studentship.
The project offers the opportunity for a PhD student to explore the wider significance of the museum's holdings of Latin inscriptions from Britain, and to explore the nature of Latin literacy and epigraphy in Britain from Roman through late antiquity and into mediaeval times.The PhD topic will be of interest to scholars concerned with the uses of literacy in the ancient and mediaeval worlds, the transition to and nature of society and culture in post-Roman Britain, and the relationship between language and power. This piece of work will create bridges between ancient historians and mediaevalists, and generate dialogue between these disciplines which more normally remain separate. We invite applications from students with a good Masters degree in Classics/ Ancient History/ Archaeology/ Early Modern History. Excellent knowledge of Latin is essential, and previous work with epigraphic Latin is desirable. Knowledge of palaeography and onomastics would be an advantage. The award covers fees/ maintenance for a Home/EU student, 1st Oct 2013-30 Sep 2016.
PhD thesis proposal: 'Literacy and Epigraphy in Britain from Roman to Mediaeval Times (1st-11th C.)'
It has long been a commonplace in Romano-British studies to comment upon the comparative poverty of epigraphic evidence from the province. This reflects the relatively small number of monumental inscriptions that survive from the Roman period. Recently, our picture of literacy and epigraphy in Roman Britain has been transformed by extensive discoveries of wooden writing tablets at Vindolanda, curse tablets at Bath and Uley, as well as by sporadic finds, such as a fifth/sixth-century graffito on slate at Tintagel. The time is now right for a reassessment of Latin literacy and epigraphy more widely in Britain between Roman and early mediaeval times. Recent discoveries present a vibrant picture of literacy even in rural areas, and have been complemented by studies of the distribution of stili in villas. The thesis will examine the uses of writing in Latin from the 1st century to 11th century, looking at the archaeological contexts of inscriptions in Latin, their use of language, onomastics, and palaeography. It will uncover the social and cultural contexts in which Latin was used during the later Roman period, and how much continuity can be detected into the mediaeval period, considering the relationship between Latin literacy, social status, and power. Close analysis of personal names will illuminate the adoption of Latin by Celts in Britain. At its core will be the Ashmolean collection, but it will range more widely to include epigraphic material from elsewhere in Britain. It will consider the extent to which monumental epigraphy gives only a partial picture of the uses of literacy, and how non-monumental writing can give a wider insight into literacy and society in Britain. Analysing Latin writing as an index of 'Romanization' is an inadequate framework within which to understand the spread, contexts, and chronology of Latin in Britain: this work will set it into a new cultural context.
Latin inscriptions from Roman and mediaeval Britain in the Ashmolean's collection will be at the core of this thesis, which will analyse the museum's Romano-British holdings within wider debates about the nature of the society and culture of Britain during this period. In common with the general problem associated with Romano-British epigraphy outlined above, namely the lack of monumental inscriptions, the Ashmolean too has a relatively small collection of monumental inscriptions - roughly sixteen in all, from various sites in Britain (including London, South Shields, Chester, Manchester, and York). However, it also has a diverse and extensive collection of non-monumental inscriptions from Oxfordshire and surrounding counties. The museum includes the fourth-century pewter hoard from Appleford, a third-century syrinx from a villa at Shakenoak Farm, and a small cluster of inscriptions from the temple complex at Wood Eaton. These will allow for the debate about the extent and quality of rural literacy to be further explored. The mediaeval period is represented by the eleventh-century dedicatory inscription from Oddas' chapel at Deerhurst and the Alfred gem. The importance of this thesis lies in the opportunity to insert the Ashmolean's British Latin inscriptions into a wider intellectual framework that is of interest to both ancient and medieval historians. The research will bridge the gap between Roman and medieval historians, encourage further debate about sociolinguistic topics such as language choice, the changing characteristics of personal names, and provide further insights into the changing character of provincial cultures under the Roman empire, the impact of the Roman army and imperialism upon Britain, and the impact of the withdrawal of official Roman presence from Britain.
The student will be supervised at Warwick by Dr Alison Cooley, who has particular interest in the relationship between literacy and epigraphy, and in changing approaches to provincial cultures in the Roman empire. The student will also have access to the RIB archive based at CSAD. The student will benefit from the induction programmes currently on offer at Warwick by the Arts Faculty and Classics Department, as well as from the training workshops relevant at later stages of academic development, and will be able to improve or commence studies in ancient or modern languages, as appropriate. The student will be required to participate fully in the departmental work-in-progress research seminar programme and annual postgraduate colloquium.
Funding levels: Maintenance £13,811 per annum + Fees £3,890 per annum